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WHAT THE GEARS DO

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It's

Using the Car Gears


Essentially the rule is: The higher your speed the higher your gear, the lower your speed the lower your gear

1st is lowest and 5th or 6th is highest


Before you read through the next section imagine for a moment you're on a bicycle

  • When you first move off you have to put a lot of energy into making your bicycle move, but as you pick up speed you gradually reduce the energy needed to maintain your higher speed
  • If you brake and slow down you have to increase the energy to get you going again
  • You can apply the same logic to the gears in your car

Just imagine going round a corner on a bicycle, you'd slow down on the approach and then use more energy to increase your speed once you'd straightened up in your new road
  • Need more acceleration on a bicycle?
  • Then pedal harder
  • Need more acceleration in a car?
  • Then use a lower gear to make the engine work harder

OK, what do the gears actually do?

  • 1ST GEAR : Think of this gear as. "When I first move". The engine has to work hard to move the car, you and your passengers from a stationary position
  • 2ND GEAR : OK, 1ST gear got you going, so does the engine need to work quite so hard now that it's got you moving? That's 2ND gear
  • 3RD GEAR : As your speed increases and the car picks up even more momentum, the car doesn't need to work quite so hard as it did in 2ND gear. That's 3RD gear
  • 4TH GEAR : Now you've got your speed up to a suitable level, let's say 30mph. Your engine doesn't need to work quite so hard to maintain this chosen speed. That's 4TH gear
  • 5TH GEAR : This one causes confusion. Some engines run happily in 5TH gear at 30mph, others struggle
  • 5TH gear is best used when you have a constant speed that your engine is happy with

SO, what's happening each time I change into a higher gear?

  • As I move to a higher gear the engine works less to achieve the same result
  • The higher my speed the higher my gear
  • The lower my speed the lower my gear

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So, why do I need to change down through the gears and how do I do it?

  • The important rule to remember is that you are always matching the gear to the speed you're travelling at
  • You don't need to change down through each gear in turn
  • And generally speaking you can stop in the gear you are in

Once upon a time we were taught to change down through each and every gear
Some experienced drivers still use this method
But, it's a method that is long out of date
Imagine your Instructor says. "Take the next turning on the left"

  • You're going to turn from a major road to a minor road
  • Let's assume that you've checked your mirrors and signalled in good time to turn left
  • You've warned other road users of what you intend to do next
  • What you must now do is estimate the speed you can travel at as you turn left
  • Let's imagine that speed is 12mph
  • OK, now you know the speed, so reduce your speed to the new known speed with the footbrake
  • Once your new correct speed is achieved now select the gear for the new speed you're travelling at, let's say it's 2ND gear
  • Complete the gear change before you turn in your the new road and return the clutch before you begin to steer
  • Avoid further acceleration until you, your passengers and your car are safely round the corner and straightened up in the new road

It is only now that you can consider if it safe to increase your speed and move progressively up through the gears as you adjust to the new road conditions
For example: You're travelling at 30mph and your Instructor asks you to. "Take the next turning on the left"
Be careful, don't think "I need to be in 2ND GEAR for this corner and try to come back to 2ND GEAR whilst still moving at 30mph

  • If you do change to a lower gear at a to higher speed your car will jolt as it tries to select the new gear and your engine won't like it
  • Instead, think "I can take this corner at ? mph"
  • Associate every situation to your speed and then select the gear for the speed you have chosen

Know your speed...know your gear

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